In telling my story, I always start with my grandmother’s migration to the states. She is my namesake and she was born at the end of the Mexican Revolution in Oaxaca in the small town of Cacahuatepec. She was an indigenous woman whose motherland was stolen by Spanish conquerors. At the age of nine, she worked with her mother making liquor that she would serve the Spanish soldiers. She developed an addiction to alcohol because she would often sample the alcohol that her mother made. She also smoked tobacco — in those days, it was seen as a method to keep bugs away.
The story goes that one day she set out on a journey to come to America, leaving without even a pair of shoes on her feet and wearing just the clothes on her back. She made a journey through Mexico in which she experienced extreme violence and sexual assault. Because of her economic circumstances, she was forced to give up her several children to families with the capacity to care for them. By the time she arrived stateside a lot of her trauma had already set in. However, she was told of an opportunity if she could just make it to South San Francisco. Here is where she met a South San Francisco police officer who hired her as a teen to work in his home as a domestic worker with promises of helping to fix her immigration papers. This never happened and eventually, she moved on to do more domestic work throughout the state of California, giving birth to my father and his brother. She chose one child — my father — to take with her back on her journey back to South San Francisco to try and get stable. By this time an addiction had set into her life exacerbated by so many challenging factors, eventually killing her by cirrhosis to the liver, turning my father into an orphan.
As soon as my father turned 18 years old he joined the Navy since he believed it to be the quickest way out of poverty and to get a free education. He didn’t quite understand or have the same belief systems as the military but he did this for 10 years since it seemed like a promising opportunity for him. While he gained valuable experience in his service, he developed an addiction to prostitution and substance use, in which sex traffickers would set up brothels to fulfill buyers’ demands.
When I was born in 1985 there was an HIV/AIDS and crack pandemic happening. I was turned over to foster care at a really young age. Although my mother was able to get me back in her care, her capacity was very low and I had very little supervision. My introduction to sex work was a choice of survival much like my mother was put in positions of. In my experience, there was not one aggressor or perpetrator but a community lacking resources and economic opportunities.
When people hear the words “human trafficking,” they formulate ideas about what a victim looks like, or how to help — some just look away. But the truth is there is no quick fix or easy answer. There are many contributing factors to people’s realities such as historical, political, and socioeconomic impacts on marginalized communities who are often targeted by systems of racial, gender, and economic violence.
-YWFC Team Member